Bristol Spirits Ltd - The home of Bristol Classic Rum


prior to the caroni distillery finally closing in 2003, john barrett had the clear foresight and plethora of experience to set in motion the creation of first-class and legendary rums for bottling - to delight rum CONNOISSEURS of the future in the years to come...
John Barrett, Founder & MD of Bristol Spirits Ltd

A Brief History

After the purchase of Caroni Sugar Estates (Trinidad) Ltd by the British sugar giant Tate & Lyle in 1937, Caroni Limited was founded. Over 30 years later, the Trinidad Government purchased a 51% stake in the business. In 1973, Great Britain eventually joined the European Economic Community. Several of those European member countries required more stringent regulation of sugar exports from former British colonies, including a price cap. Big players in the EEC, like Germany and France wished to protect their sugar beet-based industries from outside the EEC competing products. Former colonies were only permitted to export raw cane sugar to the EEC and as a result, Trinidad could not capitalise on revenue streams from the Europeans.

In 1975, the remaining 49% stake in Caroni was sold to the Trinidad Government, who immediately renamed the company Caroni (1975) Limited and went on to serve their home market. From the 1980's, Caroni (1975) Ltd. tried to improve profitability through diversification, expanding the business into other markets such as fertilizers and rice. Unfortunately this only generated annual deficits that the government had to compensate for. 
After 28 years, the State of Trinidad decided to liquidate Caroni (1975) Ltd. on July 31, 2003 and end its history of distilling.
"the rum market is very excited about bristol classic rum's caroni available from a number of bottlers, who have a wonderful selection, of our rare caroni beautifully packed."
Rum Barrels

Unique Caroni Maturation in The UK

Under John Barrett’s ownership Bristol Spirits shipped the remaining stock of barrels to England, where they were stored at his cellars based in Gloucestershire. The cold and moisture-rich conditions of the UK creates much slower maturation rates which naturally develop the Rum. John's expert opinion is that wood is one of the most important elements of the maturation process. Caroni did not invest in new wood, so this storage is much less reactive to the spirit. John explains "Barrels are a breathable instrument, having a life while contributing and improving their content. Warehousing environments really determine the spirit."

John released his first Caroni selection in 2008, a rare 1974 thought to be the oldest remaining stock. Having securing the last few barrels of this age, enabling just less than 1,500 bottles to be released to market.
"This was real ‘drinking history’ as it was most unusual and difficult to mature stock of that vintage in the Caribbean.

John is not so keen on cask strength as he feels these drinks should be considered and appreciated. Anything over 70% ABV. is classed hazardous for transportation, so surely can’t be an enjoyable drink without dilute.
Bristol Classic Rum is proud to bottle at strengths around 47% - 55% ABV.

Over the last few decades, trade and many independent bottlers source their exciting, rare, unique and specialist Rums from Bristol Spirits Ltd and seek advice from M.D. John Barrett. Release of the remaining Caroni stock is extremely restricted - once it's gone, there is no more!

John has been gradually releasing his casks to market at their point of perfection for Caroni and Rum admirers to own and enjoy. His personal favourite is the Caroni 1989.

The legend of John’s initial visit to Caroni.

John was in the Caribbean visiting those with close connections to the Rum trade. Caroni was just one of 19 distilleries in nine different countries. The general consensus was that, surprisingly, all the islands were very different, and no two distilleries were the same.

For those who have never visited the West Indies, or who have never studied the making of Rum in depth, this was a mystery tour with a certain amount of amazement and delight.

On Monday 23rd April 2001, along with great friend Ben Cross of Main Rum fame, John Barrett sets foot into a fully operational Caroni Distillery. Little did he know this would be a day to remember for Bristol Spirits Ltd. John explains ‘The most interesting feature was a very attractive Rum Punch being served in the tasting room’.

As a Government owned, run down and partly derelict, it turned out that Patrick Patel was actually, that afternoon in ‘final’ negotiations for Angostura to purchase the Company.

Here, John remembers the white 'magic' 7YO Rum tasted similar to Vodka, a 10YO cask was close to Scotch. However, the 'Legend 2000 Gold' 15YO was full, soft and with nice length.. tasty but nowhere near the fabulous casks we are now experiencing.

That evening John and Ben were invited to dinner with Ian McLauchlan, then Managing Director of Angostura Distillery, found in 1824 in Venezuela.

These are a couple of photos taken on that historic day for Bristol Spirits Ltd.

John visiting Caroni in April 2001John visiting Caroni in April 2001
Caroni 1998 'Classic HTR' - Bristol Classic Rum
caroni HTR 1998 - latest release

Rare and classic Caroni 1998 'Classic Heavy Type Rum', bottled 2022 offers a full golden colour leading to the distinctive Caroni nose with a touch of diesel and restrained wood influence.

Caroni is limited & extremely rare, when our stocks are finally bottled there will be no more! True drinking history!

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